A UK Teacher Guide to Teaching in America

I have been wanting to write this post for too long. However, it's taken me two years to get to the position I am now where I (a) am legally allowed to work in the US and (b) have been offered my dream job.

My journey may have not been a typical one but it's likely that other teachers from the UK will have similar obstacles or need to look into a ton of research to understand how to teach over in America. So, I felt that my experiences, my research, and my advice may be of some use and worth sharing!

Please feel free to contact me via email or Twitter if you want to discuss this topic further.

My Story: How I Became a Teacher in the US

I'll try my best to summarise this potentially long-winded story which started many moons ago when my partner was offered a job in Connecticut. With such a brilliant opportunity, of course he had to say yes! However, this meant putting my career on hold for a bit - which was heartbreaking as I loved being a teacher and the independence I had.

I started looking at ways I could come to America to teach through my own work visa - not on a spousal visa which only allows you to live in the US, not work! That's where my research began and what I've written about below.

Due to my husband's job, I was only able to look for work in the area so my options were very limited. I decided to stay back in the UK and continue teaching for a while when my husband left for the US. I eventually got a spousal visa and have been living in the US ever since. I spent the time learning to crochet, doing some professional development, and pursuing other hobbies.

We started the expensive journey of applying for a green card (permanent residency) and with that, came the option to apply for an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD). This allowed me to be able to work before the official green card came - which can take months, if not longer depending on your circumstances. My EAD arrived just as the pandemic hit (typically) and I started applying for teaching jobs!

I've written about the additional barriers to that below. So, I'll now cut to the part where I've been offered a teaching role in a beautiful private school and all the patience, money and effort are starting to feel worth it!!

Challenges British Teachers Face to Teach in America

Without freedom of movement and work, there are obvious barriers to 'living the American dream'. Here are some challenges facing you if you want to teach in America:

Work Visa: 

How are you going to get a work visa? The simplest answer is that you need to find a school that will sponsor your visa. This will cost them time and money so if they're an average American school, it's probably not worth it to them. Also, they'd need legal advice and support for this process.

Teacher Certification:

In order to work in a state school as a teacher, you'll need to have the state's teacher certification. This is different between states. Some states have agreements where they accept other state's certification. However, even teachers in the US might have to retrain to become a teacher in a different state. How crazy is that?!

If you have a few years of teaching experience in the UK, you can apply (in some places) for teacher certification through the state government offices. You'll most likely have to do a few exams and pass them as well. If you're looking to work in Connecticut, you'll find information on Out of State Teachers here - including foreign credentials.

Ways for UK Teachers to Work at Schools in America

It may seem near impossible, but if you are not restricted by location, there are some great options for UK teachers to cross the pond and experience life as a teacher in the US. 

British International Schools

If you are open to teaching anywhere in the US, there are some incredible international schools that'll be lucky to have you! They often follow the British system of education so you'll feel fairly familiar with some aspects of teaching there. These schools have the resources and expertise to sponsor a work visa for you. 

Teacher Exchange Programs

In order to be considered for a teacher exchange you must have:

  • A minimum of five years’ teaching experience
  • A QTS/B. Ed/degree plus PGCE certificate
  • Excellent professional record with references
  • Commitment to the full period of the exchange and to returning to the UK
Options for Teacher Exchange Programs include:

Summer Camps

For a taste of American life and a fun way to get involved in teaching is through summer camps.  It's a different style of teaching of course but it could be a great way to spend a summer before your training year and a chance for some short-term experience of teaching in the US. 

Check out my TES shop for great lesson plans, ActivInspire flip charts, and worksheets.


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